"LIVE FROM THE STRATOSPHERE" P R O J E CT U P D A T E PART 1: Teacher kits mailed PART 2: Web registration issues PART 3: Call your local PBS affiliate PART 4: Volunteer writers needed for "Junior Reports" PART 5: Roger and Todd describe observing and flight planning PART 6: Juan works on an experiment change and then gravel ruins the day _______________________________________________________________________ The teacher kits were shipped last week. These kits include: * a printed 64-page Teacher's Guide, chock full of student activities * an original color poster with more activities printed on the back * four spectrum glasses * a diffraction grating * several sheets of heat-sensitive paper * a bonus Passport to Knowledge bumper sticker If you already ordered the kit, you may have already received it. If not, you will get it shortly. If you have not yet ordered a kit, there is still time. To receive the package, send a check for $10 to: Live From the Stratosphere, PO Box 1502, Summit, New Jersey 07902-1502. A rough version of the Teacher's Guide is also available online. Look under the "Guides & Things" button on our Web site at http://passporttoknowledge.com/lfs _______________________________________________________________________ Web registration has proven to be troublesome for some folks. The problems have been traced to an unexpected situation, intermittent faults and poor direction following. The unexpected situation involved America Online users. We designed our registration process so that no password was necessary, only a username. To our surprise, AOL's web browser demands that users enter a password. So we have updated our registration system for users whose browsers disallow a blank password field. These people identify themselves when they first register and then use a password of "lfs" (that is el-eff-ess, without the quotes; not eye-eff-ess or one-eff-ess). But most users will continue to be able to get in without any password. A few times over the last week our registration process has failed due to disk management issues. We think that these problems have finally been corrected. If you do run into difficulties when connecting, please try the following: 1) Re-register using your same name (first initial and last name). Then try entering our Web again. 2) If you tried with no password, try with again with "lfs" as the password; or if you tried with "lfs", instead try with a blank password. 3) Wait an hour and try again. If you continue to have problems, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and provide the details. Finally, many folks don't seem to be reading or following the instructions. Alas the Internet can still be unfriendly and not very tolerant of errors. So it is important to take a few moments to read directions and follow them exactly. In the case of registering, the directions ask for a first initial and last name, without spaces. So a woman named Mavis Davis should register under the name mdavis, not M. Davis or m davis or squiggy. Please take this gentle reminder in the right spirit. We want you to succeed in your Internet adventuring, and that will often mean that you must follow the directions to a T. _______________________________________________________________________ If you plan on viewing the television programs live or on tape, now is a good time to begin planning how you will do this. Perhaps your first action should be a call to your local PBS station. Find out if they will be carrying the programming live or delayed. They can tell you their schedule. If they are not planning to show the shows, consider organizing a teacher phone campaign to inform your local station of your educational wishes. Now is the timeframe that many stations are planning their October schedules and it often doesn't take many call to capture their attention. If that does not work, contact your cable company to see if they might carry NASA Television for these events. Other avenues to try include instructional television systems , community colleges or anyone with access to a satellite dish. Good luck. _______________________________________________________________________ During past projects, we have received comments that some of the updates are too long or that some vocabulary/concepts are too difficult for the average middle schooler. So for this project, in addition to the regular Field Journals, we will be offering an easier-to-read version geared towards an average 5th/6th grader's interests and vocabulary. These messages will be distilled from the regular messages. I am looking for a few volunteers who would be willing to produce these reports. These folks should have a clear understanding of 5th/6th grade reading skills. I expect to begin these reports in about two weeks and continue through early November. Volunteers would be expected to write no more than one report per week. If you are interested, please send a note to me at email@example.com. Thank you. If you are interested in receiving these so-called Junior Reports, please send an email to . Leave the subject blank, and in the message body, write these words: subscribe junior-lfs _______________________________________________________________________ [Editor's note: the following entries are excerpted from a series written by Roger and Todd which document their adventure in flying onboard the KAO. Complete info can be found on the Web at http://marple.as.utexas.edu:80/~WebSci/] Roger Stryker - Wednesday, September 6, 1995 What a strange feeling it was - to begin school again, as I had done each morning the two weeks prior to our trip to California to fly in the Kuiper! I know I'll never look at the night sky the same as I had before this experience. Right now, it seems I'll forever be thinking back to Dan Lester's distant galaxies, too faint to see without a powerful telescope. And, the objects in our second mission with astronomer Xander Tielens - the clouds of dust and gas surrounding distant stars. Xander and his group are working to identify the drifting elements within the clouds. At 41,000 feet, only a television monitor that's attached to a video camera on the telescope tells us that we are looking skyward. We look at the data on the computer monitor as the detectors feed in the information they are collecting. In Dan Lester's case, the instrument, a RESOLUTION PHOTOMETER, recorded the ancient beams of light in the far infrared part of the spectrum. With the Xander Tielens group, the instrument used 120 detectors (a GRATING SPECTROMETER) to document the spectrum of the near infrared. Both sets of detectors are deep in a thermos-like container surrounded by super cooling liquid nitrogen and helium. Dan's instrument was attached to the telescope inside its cavity, sealed from the pressurized and heated cabin. The instrument the Tielens group used was attached to the telescope outside the cavity with us, in the cabin. In both cases, we could observe the mechanism, which includes four pneumatic vibration isolators (like shock absorbers), cushioning the combined telescope/detector from the constant movement and vibration of the airplane. The telescope is stabilized by gyro-stabilization elements. With the help of large electromagnets this all works together to refine the effect of the plane's movement on the telescope to nothing, keeping the telescope steadily on its target. In the cabin of the plane we could see the whole mechanism moving, sometimes a great deal, most of the time only a little. But I said that wrong, the telescope was actually staying steady, pointing at its object, and the plane, with us in it, was actually moving around the telescope. While the telescope is pointed and the detector and computer do the data collecting, there is little to do but monitor the process. Remember, we're sitting, or standing, around the instruments with headsets on that serve to deaden the constant loud noise of the airplane, and, at the same time, allow us to communicate using the small headset microphones. If we were to take the headset off, shouting and hand signals would be our only means of communication. We're on the same audio channel as the astronomers, so chatter is kept to a minimum. We hear an occasional status report and some joking and comments. You get used to the muffled droning of the airplane as it completes its preplanned observation stretches, or "legs". The headsets covering our ears quickly become comfortable and virtually unnoticeable. After a long stretch of observing, the plane banks, or turns, to adjust for the next leg. Every time we change course to prepare the telescope to find the next target, it has to be "caged", or locked down. The planned course changes and accompanying banks of the airplane take on, as the night wears on, the quality of a yawn or stretch, shaking us out of a trance. Each course change becomes a welcome event - at the beginning, it signals that we are one step closer to a successfully completed mission, but, near the end, for us rookies at least, it means that we were one leg closer to a bed. I don't think we talked about how the flight plan had to be put together. Where did we fly for 7 and a half hours so the viewing could be done? The telescope looks out the left side of the C-141, just in front of the wing, with a lower limit of 35 degrees and upper limit of 75 degrees - 0 degrees is toward the horizon and 90 degrees directly overhead. It is limited to viewing only what it is able to see from its cavity. A course has to be planned out to have the plane travel in "legs", each "leg" specifying a particular heading in order to view a particular celestial object from the left side of the plane. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Todd McDowell - Thursday, September 7, 1995 I am going to pick up this thread and tell you what I know about creating flight plans. Everything that I know about making these plans I learned while sitting in front of a computer screen in the hangar, near the Kuiper. Dan Lester was kind enough to spend some time letting me try out a piece of software called KNAV. It is designed to help the astronomers plan the legs, or sections, of their observation route. There are several types of limitations. First, and perhaps foremost, is the limitation of time. The Kuiper can stay aloft for 7 1/2 hours. comfortably, and it is necessary to keep the flights under this limit. I don't know how much fuel we had when we landed after either flight, but this is one rule I wouldn't argue with simply because of the consequences if we did run out of fuel while in the air, out in the middle of the Rockies. The second rule is that we must wind up in the same place we started. This is very reasonable when you look at a map of the Western U.S. Notice that there are not many cities out that way. Besides, I would think that fuel prices are better at the home base than almost anywhere else. So this means that the flight will be a circuit of sorts. Our first flight was not circular at all, while the second one was. The positions of the objects to be studied determine the course of the plane. The objects had to be at least 35 degrees above the horizon but not more than about 75 degrees or the telescope could not point to them. As Roger said, the telescope looks out the plane to the left, so the person who plans the flight has to know exactly where the object will be at a given time and then point the plane 90 degrees to the right of it. A bit strange. The computer software makes the planning much easier because it can tell you where the objects will be at different times of the night. Then it is just a matter of planning a circuit where all the objects are seen when they are "up" in view and in an order that allows one to be seen right after the other. Astronomers who wait so long for their turn to go up in the Kuiper do not want to waste any time. They want to be gathering data every minute if possible. Any leg (and these were VERY short) where they were not looking at an object was called a "dead leg". I think that communicates. I got the chance to plan a flight from San Francisco to Hawaii, and even though I did not start with a list of objects I made my flight take in as many planets as possible. It was difficult to do, and this was supposed to be easier than the flight plans for our flights. My only regret is that I didn't get to fly the route that I picked! Anyway, there's more to it than it may seem, but once again, computers have made this job infinitely easier. It would be an incredibly complicated process if one had to look up all the information on the position of the objects in a book and then plan out the flight by trial and error. I would like to thank you for allowing us to share our experiences on this great adventure with you. In my last journal, I hope to write something that would sum up this experience better than just telling you what we did every day. I will also provide the outcomes of our in-flight experiments at that time. _______________________________________________________________________ [Editor's note: The passages below continues a series of journals from last year as a preview of what is to come.] Juan Rivera, Telescope Operator, 5/11/94 This is an experimenter change day. We started removing the last experiment the morning we landed. Now the next one is half on. I am working the second shift and I'm just wrapping it up here at 11:45PM. The weeks that I'm flying are really devoted to work, sleep, and food. That's about it. I've been in Hawaii for about a week now and I haven't been to the hotel pool yet, and I've only been to the beach twice very briefly. Considering it's out the back door of the hotel, that's pretty bad! As you know, I flew last night and finally got to the hotel at 6:30AM this morning. I was less-than-delighted to find that the air conditioner was not working and my room was really cozy... about 90 degrees and nice and humid! I crawled in bed and went to sleep after eating some cold cereal I stocked for just such an occasion. I woke up at 11:30 and spent the next few hours waiting for my boss to call me and tell me what shift I was supposed to work. He never did, so I finally got dressed and headed off to Hickam Air Force Base at 3:00 PM. As I suspected, he was too busy "putting out fires" to remember to call. Everyone had been working all morning since 6:00AM getting the last experimenter's gear off the plane and packed up for shipment back to the mainland, and getting the next one's gear ready to put on the plane. Most everyone was working on overtime when I got here. They finally left about 5:00. Some stayed to 6:00. Well, that's about it for today. I left a note for the day guys explaining what I got done this evening so they can begin again in the morning. This experiment is really completely new, so we don't know exactly how to balance their dewar (instrument) on the back of the telescope. The whole telescope with their dewar on the back must be perfectly balanced for the pointing system to work properly. We do it by attaching weights in various places all around the telescope. Since many of the investigators use the same basic equipment year after year, we keep careful notes so we can install their equipment and get it balanced quickly. But with a new installation it can take many hours. Good luck to the day shift folks! Good night for now... Juan * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Kuiper Airborne Observatory Flight Log Juan Rivera - Airborne Telescope Operator Friday, May 13, 1994 Tonight was to be a research flight. But during the preflight check of the aircraft, the flight engineer found gravel and rocks in all four of our engines!! It turns out that earlier in the day an aircraft parked in front of us goosed his throttles as he was taxing away and peppered us with debris. If the flight engineer had not noticed the gravel they probably would have badly damaged all four engines at start up. It's a very lucky thing that he caught that. And it's an example of why we do very thorough checks of everything prior to a flight. There is much less margin for errors and problems in aircraft than other forms of transportation. You can't just pull over if you have trouble. So now the engines will have to be x-rayed to see if more debris is inside where we can't see it. Depending what they find, we could be out of business I'm afraid. I'm not an engine mechanic but I think we might have to swap out all four engines if worst comes to worst. I'm told that it will cost us $500,000 if we have to swap out the engines. In that case, the replacement engines would probably be shipped from Travis Air Force Base in California. Since our schedule is planned out for months in advance, there is very little room to slip it when something like this happens. The new experimenters could end up losing flights. Right now, the folks of the flight crew are over at Flight Operations filing an FOD report. FOD stands for "Foreign Object Damage". If loose debris is left laying around where aircraft operate, this sort of thing happens, and it's very expensive. The folks that were in the plane at the time said the plane was getting really blasted with rocks which they could hear bouncing off the skin. I'm sure the flight crew will have a few choice words for the Flight Operations people. It's not necessary to use a lot of power to get the plane moving, especially when there is another one behind you. Those guys knew better. Well enough said about that. I had a great time this afternoon. Michael, a computer programmer on the project with me, and I went snorkeling. We found a great little beach where only about five people were taking a scuba class. We were swimming along in some pretty shallow water and it didn't look all that good - only about 3 feet deep - when we came across an area where the bottom dropped off to a depth of about 30 feet. There were great big living coral growths the size of small cars with quite a few fish here and there. Michael grabbed my fin to get my attention and pointed down under one of these big coral growths, and there was a big sea turtle about two feet long! He slowly swam away and we followed him for about ten minutes. I didn't want to get too close although I would have loved to swim up and touch him. He looked slightly injured and was favoring his left flipper, but appeared pretty healthy to me.